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Updated: April 13th, 2010 4:51pm
Twins' bullpen carries load, while offense lurks in weeds

Twins' bullpen carries load, while offense lurks in weeds

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by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
One week into the season, the Twins -- with the most vaunted offense in recent team history -- currently rank only mid-pack with 37 runs through eight games (4.6 per game).

Certainly not horrible, but an underachievement so far nevertheless.

To put it in perspective, the Phillies lead baseball with 50 runs in seven games (7.1 per game). In 2009, the Yankees led the majors by scoring 5.6 runs per game. The Twins ranked 5th with five runs per game.

Despite the lukewarm offensive output this April, the Twins are off to a 6-2 start thanks in large part to solid starting pitching and a lights-out bullpen -- two facets that were under close scrutiny throughout spring training.

In fact, through 21+ innings, the Twins bullpen has allowed only four runs and one walk, while striking out 14.

ONE WALK.

Every other bullpen in baseball has allowed at least four walks, and 18 teams have allowed at least 10 walks.

Not to mention, Jon Rauch is 5-for-5 in save opportunities so far, and he's throwing more first pitch strikes (68%) than ever, albeit five innings is a ridiculously small sample size.

It's unfair to expect Rauch and the rest of the Twins bullpen to continue to pitch like this all season. Rauch will blow some saves, and the bullpen will go through poor stretches. But for the Twins to be off to a 6-2 start before the lineup starts clicking is quite the added bonus.

And I will go so far as to guarantee that this offense WILL start clicking. Denard Span (.270 on base percentage) and Orlando Hudson (.250 OBP) -- the Twins' two table setters -- have track records of reaching base in mass quantities, and they haven't even joined the party yet. Hudson is actually salivating over the possibilities.

"I'll tell you what, it's cool." Hudson said Monday about the Twins' power-packed lineup. "Vernon (Wells) and (Carlos) Delgado I had a chance to hit in front of. Manny (Ramirez) and (Andre) Ethier and (Matt) Kemp. And now I've had a chance to hit in front of two MVPs (Mauer and Morneau)... I've got to concentrate on getting on base more for those big boys."

Since the Twins became relevant again in 2001, they've never ranked higher than 12th on the MLB home run list.

2009: 172 (13th)
2008: 111 (29th)
2007: 118 (29th)
2006: 143 (28th)
2005: 134 (24th)
2004: 191 (12th)
2003: 155 (20th)
2002: 167 (12th)
2001: 164 (21st)

Funny, because most Twins fans probably felt like they were watching the 1997 Mariners last season, but in reality, 172 home runs is pretty standard for many teams.

2010 could be a different story.

It's been a long time since the Twins' offense packed this much home run power. Between Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, J.J. Hardy and Jim Thome, the Twins have six players who have smacked 20 or more home runs in a season at some point over the last two years.

Some might argue Delmon Young has potential to reach 20 or 25 home runs this season as well.

As of Tuesday morning, the Twins' 11 home runs were tied for 4th in the league, behind Toronto (13), St. Louis (13), and Arizona (12).

Let's see if the bullpen can hold steady over the long haul, when the offense finally starts to mash with regularity.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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